Valley National 8-Ball League Association

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Valley National 8-Ball League Association
A large letter 'V' with an 8-ball integrated into its right-hand riser, all overlaid with the phrase 'VNEA Pool Leagues'
VNEA logo
TypeNon-profit amateur sport league
Purpose"To promote the game of pool on coin-operated equipment[1]
HeadquartersBay City, Michigan
Coordinates43°36′04″N 83°54′02″W / 43.601079°N 83.900665°W / 43.601079; -83.900665
Region served
Individual players (league members),
Valley-Dynamo distributors (league franchise holders),
equipment suppliers and manufacturers (league sponsors)
Official language
Executive Director
Michael Fowler
R. Gregg Elliott
Main organ
Board of Directors
AffiliationsValley-Dynamo Inc.

The Valley National 8-Ball League Association (VNEA)[1][2] is one of the world's largest amateur pool (pocket billiards) leagues. As of 2010, there are nearly 100,000 individual members[1][2][3] in some 1,400 weekly local leagues[1][2] playing in over 10,000 pool halls, bars and other venues[1][2] in around 400 different cities, towns and suburbs[3] in 36 U.S. states,[1][2] and abroad.

The organization was founded in the United States in 1979[1][2][4][5] by equipment manufacturer Valley-Dynamo as the Valley 8-Ball League Association. It was later known as the Valley National 8-Ball Association, a name the league still uses sometimes[6] (and as of 2012, the organization still retains the "VNEA" acronym in prose and in its logo). Despite its name, it is neither national, having leagues in eleven countries,[1] nor limited to the game of eight-ball, as team nine-ball, as well as individual artistic pool and speed pool, are all now VNEA disciplines (some on a league basis, some only on a tournament basis). An annual, week-long VNEA International Pool Championships series (team, doubles and singles eight-ball, singles artistic pool) is held in Las Vegas, Nevada.[4] The organization is headquartered in Bay City, Michigan.[7] The president of VNEA's board of directors is Michael Fowler (as of June 2010)[8] and its executive director is R. Gregg Elliott (as of June 2010).[3][7]


Regular VNEA league matches are, like those of the BCAPL, played in round-robin format between two teams of either five or (less commonly) three players each, with each player on the home team playing one game (frame) versus each player on the visiting team. By contrast, the APA and USAPL rules call for race-format one-on-one competition, with each home team player playing several games against a single visiting team opponent.

VNEA pool is mandatorily played on Valley- or Dynamo-brand 7 by 3.5 ft (2.1 by 1.1 m) "bar box" coin-operated pool tables, considerably smaller than the 9 by 4.5 ft (2.7 by 1.4 m) regulation tables used by professionals and in some amateur leagues, including BCAPL.


VNEA playing rules were originally derived largely from informal American "bar pool", but have become increasingly consistent with the World Standardized Rules promulgated by the International Olympic Committee-recognized World Pool-Billiard Association, and used by some other major leagues, including BCAPL and USAPL. The differences in rulesets, as they apply to the action on the table, are very particular and esoteric, such as how close the cue ball must be to a targeted object ball in order for a straight-on stroke to be automatically declared a double-hit foul, for example. As do various other leagues, VNEA has various league-specific rules with regard to scoring, handicapping, scotch doubles play, tournament participation, sportsmanship, and other off-table matters.

Local VNEA charter holders have a great deal of leeway in how games are handicapped (if at all), how players are sorted into skill-based divisions (if at all), and even in a few cases as to which rules apply. Charter holders often hold regular individual, non-team tournaments and other special events, as is common in some other leagues.

Regional tournaments and the International Championships are not handicapped, have three predetermined divisions (Regular, Intermediate and Masters), and provide for individual, mixed-gender scotch doubles, and team play. The Internationals provide for multiple levels of awards and trophies – a team might lose the main competition but may have a chance to win against other eliminated competitors in a "Hard Luck" division a few days later. The Internationals also provide a Classic division for seniors. Singles play is divided into Open and Women's subdivisions (i.e., there is a Women's Masters division, etc.) Women are not required to play in the Women's division; rather, males are simply not permitted to do so.

Non-U.S. membership[edit]

The VNEA has active leagues in several countries other than the United States, all of which send teams and individual competitors to the annual International Championships.[clarification needed] Countries with active VNEA leagues include Australia, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada (Alberta and urban Ontario are especially active), England, Germany, Finland, Mexico, New Zealand and Spain.[1][2][9]

VNEA International Pool Championships[edit]

The 31st VNEA International Pool Championships were held at Bally's Casino and Resort in Paradise, Nevada, May 26 – June 4, 2011,[5]:2 and the 32nd is slated for the same venue in 2012. The 30th Anniversary event was held from May 27 to June 5, 2010, at the Riviera Hotel and Casino[4][5] where it has long been held annually in series with various other pool competitions. The 300-Billiard table[1] event draws around 6,000 players each year,[1] and in 2010 paid out some US$600,000 in prize monies.[1] The week-long events feature numerous vendors, as well as performances and training sessions, in recent years by trick shot artist and artistic pool promoter Tom "Dr. Cue" Rossman, speed pool world record holder and trick shot artist Dave "the Ginger Wizard" Pearson, and pool writer, instructor and coach Jerry Briesath, as well as internal league training seminars for referees and instructors.[5]:14

The tournaments begin with singles (one-on-one) eight-ball competition, followed by doubles and finally the main series, the team championships. Singles and team competition are divided into divisions based on previous performance in prior years' championships, with most (including all new) teams being placed in the Open division, with Intermediate and Masters divisions being progressively exclusive. Depending on the particular rules each year, a team may be permitted a single Intermediate player if they are otherwise rated in Open division, and so on. There is no other form of handicapping at the Internationals, a marked difference from the championships in many other leagues including BCAPL and APA. Men's and Women's singles are separate championships. Doubles must be one woman and one man (from any team in any charter). Five-person teams may be mixed-gender, and must be composed of at least three players from not only the same charter, but the same original team in the preceding season. Teams eliminated from the competition early may be eligible to compete in secondary, tertiary and even quaternary competitions (the Sportsmen's, Hard Luck and Extreme Hard Luck divisions), to keep the occupied for the remainder of the event series. There are other side events, such as mini-tournaments in eight-ball and nine-ball (usually limited to 16 players, one-on-one), trick shot challenges, instructional seminars, a grand opening party and a closing banquet.[5]

Special programs[edit]

While they are not always held at the same times and venues as adult events, VNEA has a large and active series of youth tournaments. In some areas (especially the very VNEA-active Midwest) these are backed by youth training programs and even entire youth leagues. As of 2010, there are around 5,000 youth players in 14 U.S. states and 3 other countries, forming around 100 leagues using a total of about 500 (non-bar/pub) venues.[2]

VNEA also offers two advanced, adult training programs. The VNEA Certified Instructor School is principally intended for those who will conduct youth training, but also with an eye toward adult "newbie" recruitment, to build the size of local charters (indeed, the spine of the CI School manual reads[10] "VNEA: It's Your Business"). The CI course is offered annually at the Internationals, and it is expected that CIs will take the course every two years, as they will be given more advanced material each time.[10] The VNEA Certified Referee Seminar provides trained umpires for tournaments. Only the cream of the crop of the CRs have the opportunity to referee the major regionals and the Internationals. In addition to classroom training, basic referee certification requires eight hours of "shadowing" an already-certified ref, observing their judgment calls and asking questions, during the Internationals.[3] Both certifications last for two years, and must be renewed with further training or become invalid after that time has passed. Both certifications require the sponsorship of the trainee's local charter holder.

Business model[edit]

Unlike most leagues, VNEA is tied to a specific brand of pool table, namely those of the Valley-Dynamo company of Richland Hills, Texas, and the league's management is quite exclusive. As with most leagues, the league activity in any given geographic area (such as a city and its suburbs, a quadrant of a very large city, or an entire suburban county) is coordinated by an exclusive franchisee. In VNEA terms, these are "Charter Holders". All VNEA Charter Holders are authorized Valley-Dynamo distributors. All venues participating in the Charter Holder's area VNEA franchise pool leagues must rent/lease their tables from the Charter Holder.[10] As a consequence, VNEA is dominant in areas, from many urban and suburban areas in Ohio and other Midwestern states, to the somewhat isolated Albuquerque, New Mexico, where bars and other establishments tend to rent tables from Valley distributors. Meanwhile, in other areas, such as San Francisco, California, in which the majority of venues own their pool tables outright, VNEA has no traction, and other leagues, such as APA and BCAPL, or independent local leagues, have filled the void. The VNEA model has been successful for Valley-Dynamo, as it gives distributors leverage to build their businesses – the larger a local VNEA league system becomes, the more customer pressure there is on establishments to join VNEA, which in turn requires that the venues submit to Charter Holder ownership and paid regular maintenance of pool tables and related equipment. Provided that the Charter Holder performs conscientious maintenance, this is a boon for players as well, since few taverns have the time and resources to independently maintain the equipment consistently. A downside for players is that prices (typically US$1 per game, sometimes as high as $1.50) are usually set by the Charter Holder, and because the profits from the table are shared between the Charter Holder and the venue, the price is very likely to be higher than the venue would have charged on a wholly owned table (usually $0.50 or $0.75). Also the venue will not have the option to open the tables up and allow free or discounted hourly play for league players as a promotion (a common practice under other league systems that make use of coin-op tables).


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l V.N.E.A. Background, Bay City, MI: Valley National 8-Ball League Association (VNEA), May 2010 A one-page flyer distributed by the organization at events.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "VNEA History". VNEA. 2010. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
  3. ^ a b c d Elliott, R. Gregg, ed. (2009). VNEA Referee Certification Seminar Materials. VNEA.
  4. ^ a b c Mehle, Judy; et al. (eds.) (March 2010). "Las Vegas Nevada: 30th Anniversary VNEA Int'l Championships – Mark Your Calendars". VNEA 8-ball News & Views. VNEA. 21 (2): 18–29.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  5. ^ a b c d e 2010 VNEA Int'l Championships Tournament Program. VNEA. May 2010. throughout.
  6. ^ "Homepage". op. cit. 2010. <title>, "Valley National 8-Ball Association". Retrieved June 18, 2010.
  7. ^ a b Mehle, Judy; et al. (eds.) (March 2010). "Indicia". VNEA 8-ball News & Views. op. cit. 21 (2): 1.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Fowler, Michael (March 2010). "Spotlight: VNEA President's Report". VNEA 8-ball News & Views. op. cit. 21 (2): 2.
  9. ^ VNEA-issued enamel cloisonne pins for each active US state, Canadian province and non-North-American country indicate that sometime between summer 2010 and summer 2011 at least one VNEA franchise appeared in both England and New Zealand.
  10. ^ a b c VNEA Certified Instructor School: Instructors Manual. VNEA. 2009.

External links[edit]